Tasmanian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets 2009: Findings from the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS)

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Author: A. Matthews, R. Bruno

Resource Type: Drug Trends Jurisdictional Reports

The Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS, formerly the Party Drugs Initiative or PDI) is a companion project to the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). The IDRS has been conducted in every Australian state and territory annually since 1999, following successful trials in 1996 and 1997. The IDRS is currently funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and was designed to monitor trends and emerging issues in illicit drug use in order to provide a timely early warning system for health and law enforcement services, to provide direction for subsequent further research, and to provide an evidence base for policy. The IDRS focuses on drugs such as methamphetamine, opioids, cannabis, and cocaine, and issues that pertain particularly to the intravenous use of drugs in Australia. The methodology of the IDRS involves the triangulation of three data sources including a survey of people who regularly inject illicit drugs, a survey of ‘key experts’ (KE) who have regular contact with injecting drug users, and an examination of ‘indicator data’ or available existing data sources.

The EDRS uses the same triangulated methodology as the IDRS, but aims to examine emerging trends in the use, price, purity and availability of ‘ecstasy and related drugs’ (ERDs) in Australia. For the purpose of the present study, ERDs are defined as drugs commonly used recreationally in the context of venues such as nightclubs and dance- or music-related events. These drugs primarily include ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, ketamine and GHB. The feasibility of the EDRS was assessed with a two-state trial funded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) in 2000 (Breen, Topp, & Longo, 2002). It was clear from the feasibility study that the EDRS could adequately capture the emerging population of ecstasy and related drug users in Australia, a demographic which was largely distinct from that accessed within the methods of the IDRS, and NDLERF provided additional funding for a two year project in every Australian state and territory beginning in 2003. The EDRS was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy as a project under the cost-shared funding arrangement in 2005 and by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing since 2006. The current report contains new data collected in Tasmania in 2009 and Tasmanian trends between 2003 and 2008 (Bruno & McLean, 2004b; Matthews & Bruno, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). National reports including jurisdictional comparisons are available as technical reports from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales (Black et al., 2008; Breen et al., 2004; Dunn et al., 2007; Sindicich et al., 2009; Stafford et al., 2005, 2006).

The aims of the Tasmanian EDRS are: to describe the demographic characteristics and patterns of ecstasy and other drug use among a sample of regular ecstasy users (REU) in Hobart and surrounding areas; to examine and identify trends in the price, purity, and availability of ERDs in Hobart; to examine the nature and incidence of risk behaviours among the group of participating REU (e.g., injecting drug use, driving risk, sexual risk, agression); to examine healthrelated harms associated with ERD use including overdose, help-seeking behaviour, dependence, psychological distress physical health and other potential problems (occupational, social, risk to self/others, legal); to investigate other emerging trends in local ERD markets that may warrant further investigation or monitoring; to examine the incidence of drug information-seeking behaviour; and to identify issues that are pertinent to developing harm-reduction strategies in Hobart. An overarching aim is to, where possible, incorporate converging data from KE and indicator data and to identify emerging trends through comparison with EDRS data collected in Hobart between 2003 and 2008 (Bruno & McLean, 2004b; Matthews & Bruno, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009).